Cozy, Country Cottage Style England s Top Designers on How to Get the Look

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1 Cozy, Country Cottage Style England s Top Designers on How to Get the Look SEPTEMBER 14, :14 PM by PIP USHER Photo: Courtesy of Sims Hilditch As evenings shorten and a chill cuts through the air, summer days have been replaced with the urge to hunker down and hibernate. If you find yourself dreaming of a cozy little den for the season ahead, look to the United Kingdom for design inspiration. A nation that has made the best of overcast skies with cashmere sweaters and chic country homes, it handles gloomy weather as it does most things: with a stiff upper lip and a sense of style. Here, the country s leading interior designers share their tips for re-creating the charm of an English cottage.

2 Opposites attract Chelsea-based designer Caroline Paterson began her career in the hallowed halls of Christie s furniture department before moving into interiors. While an eye for artworks and antiques continues to define her much-lauded approach to design, she makes sure to temper the sophistication of these pieces with an unexpected addition. Where I feel the English country house taste excels is the slightly eccentric mixture of antique with high contemporary, she says. This is due to the English passion for collection through the generations and a general reluctance to throw anything out! What this leaves us with is an almost indefinable style, not really seen on the Continent. It is never dull, always eclectic, and often full of surprises.

3 Sophie Ashby, founder of Studio Ashby, echoes this sentiment. When it comes to interiors, she likes to pair unexpected pieces together to amplify their impact. I think it s so important to blend contemporary with classic to create something that is ultimately timeless, she explains. A classic old empire chest of drawers, for example, looks amazing with a bold modernist lamp and a colorful, contemporary piece of art hanging above.

4 Be bold with color Emma Sims-Hilditch lives in the heartland of pastoral England: the Cotswolds. Famed for the outstanding beauty of its moss-covered medieval villages, the region champions English style in all its quaint, cozy glory. But in her work transforming historic manor houses into family homes, Sims- Hilditch champions a more daring approach to color than you d expect. As an experienced decorator, I know how nerve-wracking it can be to choose paint colors, she says. So often people don t have the nerve to use stronger colors and, most importantly, make sure there is contrast in a room.

5 The designer advises choosing complementary dark and light tones when you furnish a home, even if you re settling upon a neutral scheme. The contrast in decorating is like the mascara on a face it completely brings it to life, she says, recommending antique wooden pieces that contrast against a white linen sofa, or bronze wall lighting set against a pale stone wall, as easy ways to achieve that contrast.

6 Comfort always comes first There s no use having the home of your dreams if you can t relax in it. Channel the no-nonsense snugness of an English country cottage by prioritizing multi-level lighting (ceiling, wall, and table lamps), a carefully thought-out color scheme, and natural materials that reflect the environment outside. The only paramount prerequisite is the interiors are comfortable and practical, stresses Paterson.

7 Seek out pieces with a story Imagining her own dream country cottage, Ashby says she d start with a selection of beautiful antiques, an abundance of cozy natural materials and a specially commissioned painting of the perfect view seen from her bedroom window. But she s quick to reassure that there are economical ways to achieve this. You can find bargains at markets around the country or recycle old furniture and use it in new ways. An object that comes with a story behind it is always more personal and infinitely more interesting than an off-the-shelf item, she says.

8 One easy way to imprint that idiosyncratic English style on to your home is through artwork. Ashby, who studied History of Art at university and frequents galleries, advises finding paintings or design pieces by new talents that you admire rather than purchase knock-off reproductions of the classics. Character and personality emerges from a bit of chaos, she says. Your home should be an extension of your own quirks and passions.

9 Mix textures up For Sims-Hilditch, it s the thoughtful little details that make a big impact, from luxurious linen walling to timber flooring. We often add texture through using rustic reclaimed pine boards on walls or ceilings, or buying our stone flooring or fireplaces from French reclamation yards, she says. Mixing that with cool linen curtains or some colorful cushions from Fermoy or Chelsea Textiles gives us a wonderful starting point.

10 Photo: Courtesy of Sims Hilditch For budget-conscious decorators, she recommends using more cost-effective fabrics on curtains and upholstery and then splashing out on the cushions: These can really bring the room alive with little effort or expense.

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